All posts by KAV

Government neglects Schools and abandons Training

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Not one brick has been laid by the GSLP Government in relation to its glossy manifesto commitment to build 5 new schools and there is no sign that the Government has in any way progressed plans to put education at the top of the political agenda.

On training the position is even worse and the Future Job Strategy fails to deliver on every level and costs the community over £10Million a year.

The answers to questions in Parliament on both education and training have been lazy, evasive and demonstrate a real lack of commitment and vision on education and training of our Young People moving forward.

Commenting on the issue, Shadow Minister for Education, Elliott Phillips MP said:

“The Government is clearly putting the brakes on education and other important areas of domestic policy. Whilst challenges that face us are indeed significant, we cannot sit back and ignore the educational and training needs of our Young People.

Brexit must be seen as an opportunity to showcase Gibraltar by focusing our efforts on building a well educated and skilled workforce for the future.  We must develop better opportunities for our Young People so that they are encouraged and inspired in skilled trades and the new technologies. By placing our Young People in dead end jobs we are depriving them of opportunity, worse still we are condemning them to a life of dissatisfaction and little hope.

The failure to set out how the Government intends to build 5 new schools in 2 1/2 years is nothing short of astonishing. Where are the plans? What are the results of the consultation on the new schools and on co-education?  The Government has abandoned and neglected ordinary working families and now they are doing the same with the education and training of our Young People.”

Gibraltar Education

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We are promoting urgent public petitions to the UK and EU Parliaments saying NO to clause 22!

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We are disappointed that the European Union appears to have singled out Gibraltar as a bilateral issue between the United Kingdom and Spain at the earliest possible juncture by the inclusion of a veto in the form of clause 22 in the draft negotiating position.

Despite the assurances of the UK Government, we want to ensure that the wishes of the people of Gibraltar continue to be heard in both the UK and EU Parliaments and that no stone is left unturned in the expression of those wishes.

Both the UK House of Commons and the EU Parliament have established mechanisms for the acceptance and reading of public petitions. We have drafted such petitions and made contact with the office of the Clerk of Public Petitions in the House of Commons. We will be inviting non governmental organisations and the Government to support both petitions in order to present a united front in defending Gibraltar’s interests.

We’ll be knocking on doors and will set up a stand on Main Street in the coming weeks, and those interested in signing the petition can also come down to GSD headquarters.

This is an important way in which the people of Gibraltar (in parallel with the Government) can express their concerns directly to the House of Commons and the EU Parliament on the EU draft negotiating position before they are ratified by the EU on 29 April 2017.

Say no to clause 22

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Clause 22 requires removal to protect Gibraltar’s Economic Interests

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We welcome the statements made by UK Government and its Ministers over the weekend.  The GSD, however, believes that there has been a focus in those statements on sovereignty commitments.  Welcome as these are, the double lock commitment of the UK Government in respect of sovereignty is inviolable.  The attempt to exclude Gibraltar from any UK-EU BREXIT deal requires an unequivocal rejection of the so-called clause 22.

Over the next few months the UK and the EU will attempt to agree by consensus a list of issues or an agenda, which will be carried forward for negotiation in any BREXIT deal.  That is why Spain has played its hand early.  Any inclusion of clause 22 in that consensus list or agenda should be wholly unacceptable for the UK Government.  This is not about sovereignty.  It is about protecting the economic interests of our community in circumstances where we are being singled out at the earliest possible juncture for exclusion.

Over the last year the GSD has argued that Gibraltar’s goals should remain simple and from the outset we outlined what those goals should be: access to the UK market, access to any trade deals negotiated by the UK with third counties and the EU, together with a sensible agreement in respect of the frontier.  Nothing that undermines those objectives should be acceptable to us.

In addition, we should continue to attempt to develop alternative non-EU dependent markets.  Gibraltar has always shown it is an agile jurisdiction which can adapt and we simply need to get on it.  In this regard, the Leader of the Opposition is visiting Morocco today for high level meetings.  He has already done so on a number of occasions in the past eight months.  Roy Clinton will be acting Leader of the Opposition in his absence.

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Our Reaction to EU Negotiating Position on Gibraltar

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We are disappointed that the European Union appears to have singled out Gibraltar as a bilateral issue between the United Kingdom and Spain at the earliest possible juncture.

The Attorney General Michael Llamas QC yesterday evening told the GFSB that he felt confident that Spain would not want to be seen by its European partners as being unreasonable by vetoing an entire deal between the U.K. and the EU because of its position in respect of Gibraltar.  It is precisely to avoid this situation that the European Union is now attempting to carve out Gibraltar as a bilateral issue between Spain and the United Kingdom. In practical terms it means that Spain could block Gibraltar’s access to any trade deal the U.K. may be able to negotiate with the EU and it also means that unlike the Irish border, which is a recognised EU issue, the Gibraltar border will become bilateral to the UK and Spain.

It now falls to the UK’s negotiating team to translate goodwill towards Gibraltar into action and reject outright such a prejudicial position to Gibraltar’s long term interests.

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Meeting with UK Undersecretary of State for Exiting the EU

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We took the opportunity yesterday to meet with UK Undersecretary of State for Exiting the EU, Robin Walker. Daniel Feetham, Roy Clinton, Trevor Hammond and Robert Vasquez attended the meeting in which a briefing was provided on the position of the UK Government with respect to Gibraltar and Brexit and assurances were given that many of the concerns peculiar to Gibraltar were of importance in the process.

We were able to set out our views, which have been consistent since the result of the referendum; that it was vital to Gibraltar’s interests that we be a part of any trade deals that Britain might make as part of this process with the EU and also with any third parties who are not in the EU; that we retain and expand upon the ‘single market’ with the UK, and that maintaining fluidity of flow of people and vehicles at the frontier was essential to our economy and could not be sacrificed to expedite or improve the outcome of negotiations for the United Kingdom.

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Social Insurance Increases undermines Families and Small Businesses

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We have noted the increases in Social Insurance announced by the Government last Friday which are effective next month.  These measures would normally be announced at the annual Budget session and the Government now it would appear is set on introducing cost increases by stealth ahead of the Budget so as to cowardly avoid having to debate them in Parliament.

GSD shadow minister for public finance, Roy Clinton,commented “In his 2016 Budget speech the Chief Minister stated that he would NOT increase social insurance contributions due to the seismic effect of Brexit and that he would observe the effects of the decision on business in Gibraltar before doing so and only if necessary. These measures will cost employers on average an extra £183.56 per annum per employee and employees will take home £121.68 on average less per year. Families and ordinary working people will be obviously worse off at a time when inflation is running at 2.5%. “Thus small businesses and employees across the board will feel the pinch” as the Chief Minister himself remarked in his budget debate contribution in 2010 during the last Social Insurance increase.
I invite the Chief Minister to answer his own question in 2010 namely: “if we are running surpluses, if we are in such good shape… tell us why it is that we need to further increase the cost of doing business in Gibraltar?”  The small business sector is still reeling from the recent unpopular increase in business licencing fees and red tape, this latest additional cost to small businesses is the last thing they need ahead of Brexit.”

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We’re calling on Government to explain Charles Bruzon House delays

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We have received representations from Senior Citizens who are now concerned at the unexplained delays in getting the keys to their newly allocated homes at Charles Bruzon House. It is now a whole month since the draw for the allocation of flats was made and as yet the Ministry for Housing is unable to say when residents will be able to move into their new homes.
A group of Senior Citizens have explained to us how they eagerly started to pack their personal belongings a month ago in order to be as ready as possible to move into their new homes with the minimum of delays. However, to date, the Ministry for Housing is unwilling to commit themselves to say when the keys to their new homes will actually be handed over. “It is not just a question of signing a new rental contract and getting your keys” explained a very concerned Senior Citizen, “we then have to make arrangements for the connections of electrical and potable water services. Based upon others’ experiences we know that the connection of these services will take some time unless we are willing to pay extra charges for a speedy service, this is something Senior Citizens wish to avoid”.
GSD MP, Edwin Reyes, calls upon the Minister for Housing and other senior officials to issue a statement so that all future residents of Charles Bruzon House may have their questions answered as soon as possible.
Edwin Reyes
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We Welcome Speed Cameras Despite Delays

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We have today welcomed the announcement by Government that at last the speed cameras, which have been in place for so long, will shortly become operational and we’ll be carefully monitoring when this actually happens. The whole episode has been an embarassment to the Minister for Transport who really should not make too much of finally getting this project off the ground, if this latest announcement by Government is to be believed.

Trevor Hammond, GSD MP, said “It’s important to look back at the reasons cited for the introduction of speed cameras which the Minister said was to address “the numerous concerns resulting from serious or lethal injuries as a direct result of excessive speeding on our roads”. Those were his words not ours and it was therefore according to him a matter of public safety and yet the Minister was saying this in early November 2015, nearly 18 months ago!
“He also explained in that press release that “all the infrastructure and legislation for the speed cameras is now in place” and that our roads “will no doubt be safer for all”. The legislation that the Minister said was in place in November 2015 was only passed by Parliament in October 2016. It is a remarkable indictment of the Minister’s abject failure in respect of this project, his Government’s lack of priorities on matters of public safety and the propensity of this administration to mislead the public that this project might be coming to fruition over a year later than first announced”.

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Doctor resignations will affect continuity of care

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Yet another consultant has left the GHA according to information being received by the GSD from distressed patients who have had appointments cancelled.  This follows the resignation of Dr Kovac, a surgeon at the hospital, within the last few weeks and four consultants last year together with an unprecedented morale survey conducted by doctors at the hospital.  This time, we are told it is Dr Lorenc the endocrinologist that has suddenly resigned. The news has been so sudden that patients were called yesterday to be told that appointments with the doctor today were cancelled.  Dr Lorenc was a highly regarded doctor who saw (amongst other patients) people suffering from diabetics.  It is inevitable that this and other recent resignations will create an unfortunate vacuum in continuity of care. The GSD calls on the Government to explain what contingency plans it has in place to reassure patients who have had their appointments cancelled that they will be seen by alternative doctors within a reasonable period of time.

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GSD successfully drives forward its position on mandatory drugs testing in prisons

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We are pleased that as a direct result of our questioning in the last session of Parliament the Government has agreed with our position, namely, that we should ensure that the Prison Service makes use of the statutory powers it has in order to make mandatory drugs testing of inmates a reality.  It will be recalled that it was the former GSD Government that made provision for mandatory drugs testing in Prisons but some 5 years later the Government has been very slow to expedite this critical work within our Prisons.

Last year Elliott Phillips MP asked the former Justice Minister Gilbert Lucudi QC MP questions on the mandatory testing of prisoners.  We were told three things by the former Justice Minister (1) that the technology for such tests was not calibrated (2) that the Superintendent preferred voluntary arrangements with Prisoners in exchange for privileges (3) that the Superintendent of Prisons had not issued the requisite statutory notice despite the legal framework being put in place by a GSD Government over 5 years ago.

In the recent parliamentary session the newly appointed Justice Minister agreed with the Opposition and accepted our invitation to speak with the Superintendent in order to ensure that mandatory drugs testing of inmates was to be actively pursued.

Elliott Phillips, Shadow Justice Minister, said “we believe it is right that the authorities use the powers at their disposal to get inmates away from drugs and their abuse and moving them towards making a positive contribution to our community. Substance abuse must be tackled at ever level in our community and if we have the statutory muscle to tackle drugs there is no reason why we should not do so. We continue to express disappointment not to have received a explanation for the 5 year delay of the Government to ensure that mandatory drugs testing becomes a practical reality but we welcome Minister Costa’s stance and his commitment to working with us on this important issue”.

Elliott Phillips

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